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How sustainable housing can help tackle fuel poverty

Topics: Billing

Choosing between heating and eating is known as fuel poverty, fortunately today’s sustainable housing is helping to break the cycle.

Even though the UK is considered one of the richest countries in the world, there are still a significant number of people living in cold, sub-standard housing. Household bills, poor health and debt are all poverty traps.

With the UK Government proposing to build 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s, the pressure is on local authorities, housing associations and property developers to deliver sustainable housing with smart energy solutions to help to tackle fuel poverty.

What is fuel poverty?

People suffer fuel poverty when their energy costs are above the national average, or when their residual income after energy bills falls below the official poverty line. According to Government figures, more than one in 10 households (roughly two-and-a-half million families) in England are living in fuel poverty.

Not surprisingly, single-parent households fared worst with more than a quarter (26.4 per cent) struggling to pay their bills. This compared with 15 per cent of couples with children and nine per cent of couples over 60. Fuel poverty is most common in the private rented sector, affecting nearly a fifth of households (19 per cent).

Sustainable housing solutions

#1: Energy metering

Social housing tenants are in a vulnerable position because they often have low incomes and rely on their landlord to make their home energy efficient. Using ista’s innovative metering technology, tenants can get real-time consumption data so they only pay for the energy they use.

Around 5.9 million people in the UK have a pre-payment energy meter. The latest devices use smart technology to help customers to manage their debt and energy usage, without the danger of running up large, unexpected bills.

#2: Community heating

Community heating is where a building uses a centralised heating system to supply heat and hot water to more than one heat customer, such as an apartment building or office block. The building could have its own boiler or could be connected to a wider district heating network.

A major benefit of community heating is that the supply is directly controlled from a central plant, so there are no boilers to service in individual dwellings. Community heating systems are popular across Europe. For example, the Danish capital Copenhagen is almost entirely served by district heating, compared with just two per cent of UK homes.

Using a community heating system enables social landlords to take control of their heating supply. This allows them to offer tariffs below the market rate, potentially even not-for-profit, to the most vulnerable tenants.


Tackling fuel poverty needs to be a priority for social housing landlords and private developers, who need to commit to providing homes which are good quality, affordable and energy-efficient. This might cost more in the short term, but there are longer-term benefits such as lower maintenance costs and happier tenants who are less vulnerable to fuel poverty.

At ista we believe making energy costs transparent with customers only paying for what they consume – if you would like to speak to any of our team to see how we can help you please email or alternatively contact us here


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